RANDOLPH, NJ- Coming off two consecutive 20 win seasons, the Randolph boys basketball team will need to replace last years top four scoring threats, three of whom were multi-year starters. While that may sound like a tall task, the players stepping in have enjoyed much success of their own, and are looking to continue that at the next level.
“I believe this team can win another 20 games and make a run in both the state and county championships,” said coach Matt Tighe. “This group of players has won on every level they played together, including a JV county championship 2 years ago.”
Stepping into the starting point guard role this season will be the teams captain, senior Pat Kelly, who missed all of last season with an injury.
“Pat would have been in our rotation last year as a Junior on a 20 win team, but unfortunately he was hurt all year and didn't play in a single game. He worked himself back into playing shape and has himself healthy, so I think people are going to be shocked how hard he plays and how well he can play.”
It was a long road back for Kelly, and the senior is looking forward to making all that effort worth it in his final year.
“It feels absolutely amazing to be back, I’ve worked so hard since last season to become healthy and stay that way,” said Kelly. “I can’t thank the athletic trainers and coaches enough for always being helpful and patient with me.”
Coach Tighe will also be looking to four other seniors with varsity experience to step up and fill the scoring and leadership gaps lost to graduation. They include forwards Mario Haklaj and Morgan Gleniewicz, along with guards Andrew Fusco and Drew Brown.
Fusco was also lost to injury after only four games last season, and Tighe hopes he can return to the form he displayed by leading the team in scoring at the time of his injury. Gleniewicz returns as a key three-point threat, while Haklaj and Brown both displayed ability to put the ball in the net, averaging 6 and 4.5 points a game in limited action. More minutes should lead to more production from the group.
Another “tall” task will be replacing the big guy who patrolled the middle of the paint over the past four years in Luke Nathan, a 6’10” center who is now playing as a freshman at Rutgers.
“Without Luke we are definitely losing a huge defensive presence on the inside,” said Kelly. “However with the help of returning big man Ahsan Huland El, and new to the team Noah limon and Algin Utku, I believe we still have a tough interior defense.”
Tighe noted his teams strengths as being “Speed, scoring and depth,” while identifying defense and experience as a weakness, stating, “I am not convinced we want to cover anyone defensively yet and I wish we had a little more varsity game experience.”
Tighe is entering his fifth year as the Rams head coach (After four as an assistant), and has compiled a record of 61-44 in four seasons, including 20-7 last year.
Under Tighe, the Rams have earned themselves a reputation for having a strong defense, and the focus this year is no different.
“Coach has been insistent on staying mentally tough and keeping a complete focus on defense,” said Kelly. “We have a really exciting team this year, and the best way we get ourselves going is locking down on the defensive end and turning those stops into transition offense.”
Tighe will be looking to Kelly to keep his team focused, and be the leader out on the court.
“Our team rallies behind Pat because he is always the last guy to leave the gym, and they know his toughness and willingness to get in guys faces to push them to be their best,” said Tighe. “When the coaches voted him captain, we had numerous players tell us we made a great choice. Pat is a leader and I look forward to watching him lead this team.”
One final strength Tighe pointed out was the strong bond the team appears to have on and off the court.
“This group has a genuine love and support for each other,” said Tighe. “I think their closeness as a group will carry them in big games to hopefully get us over the hump and win a county/state championship.”